During a heat wave in the summer of 1984, Fielding Bliss's father invites the devil to town. When a 13 year old boy shows up claiming to be the devil,During a heat wave in the summer of 1984, Fielding Bliss's father invites the devil to town. When a 13 year old boy shows up claiming to be the devil, the Ohio town of Breathed will never be the same again...
I passed on this when I originally saw it on Netgalley, mostly because of Autopsy Bliss's name. Seriously? Autopsy? Anyway, Tiffany McDaniel emailed me a review request, mentioning how hard it was for first time authors to get reviews, and I caved in after my Grinch-like heart grew two sizes.
I honestly had no idea what to expect with this but I knew I'd struck gold right away. I read a lot of books where the prose is nothing spectacular. I could tell this one was special from the first paragraph or so.
The Summer That Melted Everything is Paradise Lost written by Flannery O'Connor, a southern Gothic tale with the power of a hurricane. It's a tale of families, racism, religion, small town mob mentalities, the evil that people hold in their hearts, and a lot of other serious themes.
The Summer That Melted Everything is Fielding Bliss' fall from grace, from being an optimistic 13 year old to be a broken adult decades later. The devil's arrival, Sal's arrival, turns his life upside town.
The Bliss family and their relationship with Sal fuels the narrative. Fielding Bliss and Sal are fast friends. Sal, devil or not, is wise beyond his years. Father Autopsy is a lawyer and mother Stella is a homemaker who is afraid to go outside. Brother Grand is good at everything, seemingly the boy every girl wants to be with. Sal's arrival changes all of them irrevocably.
There is a lot of emotional packed into this book and it sure dredged up some emotions in me. The part with the dog was just the tip of the emotional iceberg. It's thought provoking and has some serious weight to it. As I wrote earlier, it reads a lot like Flannery O'Connor and I felt wrung out after reading it.
The building hysteria of the townsfolk toward Sal reminds me of Needful Things a bit. I had no idea how the book would end but I knew it would be comparable to the destruction of Castle Rock. And it was. The last 20% was like watching the end of Old Yeller four or five times.
The Summer that Melted Everything is a first novel that reads like a lost classic. A bleak, emotional classic. Five out of Five stars.
Note: You can read my interview with Tiffany McDaniel here....more
While the rest of the world toils at their jobs, Ragle Gumm stays at home, his sole source of income a daily newspaper contest called "Where will theWhile the rest of the world toils at their jobs, Ragle Gumm stays at home, his sole source of income a daily newspaper contest called "Where will the little green man appear next?" When odd things start happening, Ragle thinks he may be having a nervous breakdown. Is he or is it something much more sinister?
Of course it is something more sinister. This is a Philip K. Dick novel.
A Dickhead at work has been after me for years to read this. After mindbending reads like The Great Forgetting, Dark Matter, and The Mirage, the road I was on was leading to Dick anyway so I gave this a shot.
First off, the things I didn't care for: The prose was really bland and the pace was a little slow for a 250 page book with huge type. As for the rest of it, I liked it quite a bit. I wish the Goodreads summary and the back cover blurb hadn't spoiled the big twist, though.
(view spoiler)[ Time out of Joint reads like an exceptionally paranoid Twilight Zone episode. Most aspects of Ragle Gumm's life are staged in order to keep him pacified and focused on "Where will the little green man appear next?" It's a conspiracy of massive proportions that safeguards America at the cost of Ragle Gum's day to day life.
When I picked up the book, I had no idea it would wind up being about a war between Earth and its colonies on the moon. Ragle Gum gradually pieces together what's really going on and tries to get the hell out of town. A lot of reviewers mention the Truman Show and it is about like that, only much crazier. (hide spoiler)]
While I didn't think it was awesome, I did enjoy Time out of Joint. It's a literary ancestor to books like The Great Forgetting and Pines. Three out of five stars.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
An amnesiac is given an experimental treatment by a specialist, reading various accounts of a violent sex crime, in order to regain his memories. ButAn amnesiac is given an experimental treatment by a specialist, reading various accounts of a violent sex crime, in order to regain his memories. But is he the killer? And is the treatment for something more sinister? Who is the specialist?
I got this from Netgalley
I'm not really sure about this one. I got it from Netgalley because it sounded bizarre and it was. I'm not precisely sure how to describe it.
Labyrinth starts in a hospital with a patient being given an experimental treatment in order to restore his memories. The bulk of the book is told in newspaper articles, interviews with people who knew the victim and the killer, statements to police, and even fictionalized accounts of a gruesome murder/mutilation.
I'm not sure if the identity of the patient is supposed to be a mystery since pretty much everyone will guess who he is in the first ten pages. The identity of the specialist wasn't overly mysterious either.
Maybe something was lost in translation, it was translated from Japanese, but I'm not sure what this book was trying to be. It seemed to be about identity and the senselessness of some crimes but I felt more confused by it than anything else. 2.5 out of 5 stars....more
When Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno meet on a train, they discover they have one thing in common: each of them has someone they would be betterWhen Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno meet on a train, they discover they have one thing in common: each of them has someone they would be better off without. When Haines' estranged wife winds up strangled, he finds himself caught in Bruno's psychotic, alcoholic web...
Yeah, that makes the book sound really gripping. It wasn't. The Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train is legendary so I thought I'd give the book that inspired it a shot. I would have been better off watching Throw Mama From the Train again.
The setup is classic noir: two men, two murders, no complications. The problem is that neither man is all that interesting. Guy Haines is too by the book and Bruno is an alcoholic mama's boy, more sad that anything else.
It may have been a case of wrong book, wrong time, but the engine just didn't turn over for me with this one. I was pretty bored for the first half. After that, I was just ready for it to be over. The first murder was boring, the second was kind of illogical considering how flimsy things were, and the rest was just running out the clock.
I will say that Patricia Highsmith, like Jim Thompson, writes a very believable alcoholic psychopath. From her Wikipedia entry, I'd say a lot of it came from experience.
I'm going to paraphrase Roger Ebert (I think) here: Strangers on a Train is a gripping short story squeezed into 280 pages. Two out of five stars. ...more
When a half-breed girl saddled with the nickname Snow White has had enough of her wicked stepmother, she goes on the run in the Wild West. As she liveWhen a half-breed girl saddled with the nickname Snow White has had enough of her wicked stepmother, she goes on the run in the Wild West. As she lives by her gun and her wits, will past catch up with her?
Six-Gun Snow White is a retelling of Snow White as a western. It hearkens to earlier, non-sanitized, pre-Disney versions of the tale. Mr. H, Snow White's father, buys her mother, Gun Who Sings, from her tribe. Gun Who Sings dies in childbirth and things are as good as could be expected until the second Mrs. H moves in.
Valente really made me care about Snow White's hardships, both before she went on the run and after. Her stepmother really needed a bullet to the brain from Rose Red. Catherynne Valente's prose was as kick-ass as usual, although it felt a little wordy for the tale it was telling at times. I really liked the spin she put on the ending.
A lot of the fun of Six-Gun Snow White is seeing how Catherynne Valente has recast familiar aspects of the tale, from the Pinkerton Huntsman to the seven dwarves analogues, the sisters. The story is more like a western with echoes of the early versions of the tale than a straight translation.
Six-Gun Snow White is a well-written little novella, perfect for a short sitting full of grit and violence. 3.5 out of 5 stars....more
In a world where the Axis won World War II and Japan controls the western United States, a censor named Ben Ishimura and a secret police agent named AIn a world where the Axis won World War II and Japan controls the western United States, a censor named Ben Ishimura and a secret police agent named Akiko Tsukino are trying to find the source of a video game called USA, which allows players to play in a world where America never fell...
I initially passed on this when I saw it on Netgalley but Peter Tieryas seems like a pretty cool guy on Goodreads and on Twitter so I gave it a shot when it went on sale for $1.99.
United States of Japan is a spiritual successor to The Man in the High Castle, which I really need to read one of these days. The USJ is a paranoid dystopia where the Emperor is everything and to speak against him means death. Skyscraper-sized mecha patrol the cities and everyone carries a portable computer called a portcal.
Ben Ishimura is a censor whose attitude prevents him from going anywhere in his career. Akikio Tsukino is a cop whose career means everything. What happens when these two get forced to work together? A fun tale full of action and gore, that's what!
United States of Japan was a fun read, full of gruesome deaths, gore, cyberpunk awesomeness, and some giant robots roaming around the periphery. The paranoid feel made it pretty gripping at times. I had a feeling who was responsible for the USA game but I was off by a degree or two.
I didn't actually care for Ben that much. He's pretty passive for a lead character and his attitude got on my nerves. Akiko, on the other hand, ran the gantlet over the course of the book and wound up being my favorite character, far from the mindless duty-bound cop she started the book as.
Aside from Ben, the only complaint I can think of would be that there weren't enough mecha battles. As a child of the 80's, I loved getting home from school in time to watch Voltron or Robotech and as such, can't get enough of giant robots duking it out.
United States of Japan makes dystopian alternate history fun! 3.5 out of 5 stars....more
Cheating Death, Stealing Life is the biography of Eddie Guerrero, chronicling his early life up until shortly after he won the WWE Heavyweight title.
CCheating Death, Stealing Life is the biography of Eddie Guerrero, chronicling his early life up until shortly after he won the WWE Heavyweight title.
Confession Time: I was a big professional wrestling fan for a quarter of a century. Eddie Guerrero was one of my favorites ten of those years and his death was one of the big reasons I quit watching.
One of the early indicators of how much I'll like a pro-wrestling biography is how quickly they make with the wrestling action. This book wasted no time. The wrestling stuff started on page one.
Eddie covered a lot of ground in the early goings, from growing up in a wrestling family and eventually breaking into the business in Mexico. He touches on his partying lifestyle early, which is good since later parts of the book show how much that lifestyle would threaten to destroy his life. In fact, it probably contributed to his early death.
Eddie's story goes from Mexico to Japan, from ECW to WCW, and finally to the WWE and the battles with addiction that eventually got him fired. Unlike in the ring, no punches are pulled. Eddie talks about all the times drugs and alcohol nearly cost him everything, eventually seeing him living in a crappy apartment and wrestling on the independent circuit just to make ends meet. When Eddie finally got his shit together, his life got back and track and he was called back up to the WWE. It was actually pretty hard-warming for a wrestling book.
Other than my usual gripes about there not being enough interesting road stories, this was a solid book. Cheating Death, Stealing Life, frog-splashed its way into my wrestling book top ten. Four out of five stars.